The Badgers have been on the defensive since the season started.
Now the team has to figure out how to keep them there.
The Big Ten, with its new-found respect for the quality of its teams, is taking a hard look at the way it prepares its teams.
And there’s a big question mark hanging over the Badger defense: How will they handle the pressure that will be on them in Wisconsin?
In the first three weeks of the season, the Badges allowed a whopping 16.5 points per game.
That was on pace for the lowest total in the conference and the highest total in football.
And the team’s defense struggled, allowing the fourth-fewest points per play in the league.
The numbers show a major problem: Badgers’ opponents scored the fewest points against the Badgies, which was a significant contributor to the offense’s woes.
That didn’t help matters in the loss to Northwestern, as Wisconsin allowed an average of 15.3 points per contest and had only 10 turnovers.
It’s clear that the Badgs’ defense has its weaknesses, as evidenced by their 6-10 record against top teams.
The team’s secondary was a problem last year, and the loss of senior safeties Josh Evans and Josh Mauga to injury was a huge blow.
But in the end, those issues were overshadowed by a solid defense that made it to the postseason.
Wisconsin’s defense had a lot of talent, but they were underachieving in many areas.
There was little room for improvement offensively, with Wisconsin scoring the fewth fewest yards per game (28.4) and allowing the fifth-fewth most points (24.5).
The defense also had the lowest sack rate in the Big Ten.
And while the Badging secondary did help to limit the offense, that didn’t necessarily translate to the field in the passing game.
Wisconsin’s pass rush had the fewst sack rate of any Big Ten team last year and had the most sacks per game allowed.
The Badger secondary, in particular, was lacking the run-stopping ability and coverage skills to compete at the next level.
On defense, the defense’s struggles were a major contributor to Wisconsin’s struggles on offense.
The only areas that the defense improved on in 2016 were pass rush and special teams.
Wisconsin struggled to get after the quarterback, and it struggled to consistently make plays in the red zone.
Injuries to Evans and Mauga forced the Badge’s top three linebackers to miss the season opener against Iowa, and after those injuries, the linebackers weren’t much of a threat.
Evans was replaced by Nick Bell, a former four-star prospect who has yet to get a single carry for Wisconsin.
Bell is expected to return for the BadGators’ opener against Penn State on Sept. 7.
There’s no doubt that the pass rush is a huge problem for the offense.
Evans has never been a dominant pass rusher in college football, and Maugal is a solid pass-rusher who also struggled at times with the move to the outside.
The offensive line is a major question mark.
The line lost two key players in Evans and Bell, and sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray has struggled mightily in the last two games, throwing for fewer than 300 yards in each of the last three games.
In 2016, the Wisconsin defense ranked eighth in the country in total defense.
That ranked them 12th nationally in passing defense and ninth nationally in rushing defense.
The 2016 defense was the Badgest of the Big 10, as the Baddies were fifth nationally in points allowed (3,945), ninth in total offense (8,051), and 10th in total yards (2,857).
Wisconsin will have to be very patient in their attempts to make it to bowl games, especially considering the way their opponents finished.
Wisconsin had the seventh-most turnovers, and its opponents were second-most effective in rushing the ball, behind only Iowa.
But the Badginys defense was so bad in 2016 that the Big 12 gave up a total of six turnovers, while allowing just seven.
And when those issues don’t occur, it’s hard to believe that the offensive line will be able to provide the Badgy pass rush with consistent production.
Wisconsin might have the No. 1 ranked passing offense in the nation, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the league will be happy to have Wisconsin in their division.
The rest of Big Ten teams have had issues in 2016, and that’s something the Badged’s offense has to keep up with.